Brief Comparison: S&B 5-25 vs USO 3.8-22 SN3 (PICS)


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Zak Smith
January 4, 2006, 01:53 PM
Here's a real quick comparison of the new 5-25 S&B vs. a similar USO SN3.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1976_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1976_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1976_img.jpg)

DISCLAIMER: This is not a complete review, nor a full comparison. I've only had the S&B for a few days, and only shot about 20 rounds through it.

Scopes:

Scope 1. USO 3.8-22x44mm SN3. ERGO. Metric EREK. mil-scale reticle. Capped metric windage knob. 35mm tube. Illuminated. Mount is a AI single-piece 28 MOA 34mm machined to match the 35mm tube.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1995_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1995_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1995_img.jpg)

Scope 2. S&B 5-25x56mm PMII. Two-turn. Metric. P4 reticle. Mount is an AI single-piece mount machined lower in the middle for the adjustment turrets of the scope.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1996_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1996_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1996_img.jpg)

TEST CONDITIONS: Rifle used for testing was my AI 338. (The 308 was used for photographs later, as well.) Shooting 10" square steel plates from 350 to 960 yards during daylight. The optical comparison was done out my back window, over the lake, looking at objects approx 500 yards away, during late afternoon sunlight.

I had been shooting the USO 22x out to 965 yards. I mounted the S&B on the rifle, took two shots at dirt clods at about 150 yards to get close, shot one at the 345 yard plate, and the fourth shot through the scope was a hit on the 10" plate @ 345. I "zeroed" the knob with my 345 yard computed dope, and progressively made hits out to 965 (not all first-round at 800 and 900, though).

I did all comparisons on the same power setting.

* There was no obvious winner in clarity. There may be a difference. Another shooter and I were not able to conclusively decide what it was.

* The S&B was noticably brighter

* The S&B had a larger exit pupil, so it was easier to get a sight picture through

* The S&B was easier to adjust focus, but the USO seemed to "need" it less. The ERGO is kind of a pain to adjust, but in competition, I often just leave it.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1984_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1984_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1984_img.jpg)
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1983_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1983_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1983_img.jpg)

* The S&B reticle was fully opaque (black), while the USO "mil-scale" reticle was semi-transparent

* Of these two reticles, I prefer the mil-scale in the USO because it has a 1/2 mil mark off the center crosshairs for holding wind.

* The S&B knobs require more force to adjust, move a smaller circumferential distance per click (very small), and are harder to read than the USO EREK. I prefer the USO EREK for usability (once zeroed -- see zero comments below).

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1990_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1990_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1990_img.jpg)
http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1987_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1987_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1987_img.jpg)

* The S&B has more elevation available. About 21 in the USO vs. about 26 in the S&B. This is a moot issue for all but 50BMG at distances beyond 2200 yards.

* The S&B had more managable eye relief.

* The illumination control on the S&B blocks the view of the parallax/focus adjust knob.

* There is no provision for a "capped" windage knob on the S&B.

* The "Two Turn" elevation knob on the S&B is much easier to adjust and set zero on compared to the EREK.

The EREK has the center adjustment screw which is a pain to adjust (and it sets the "bottom" of the zero-stop on the EREK), and the EREK requires the two top screws to be tightened in a direction of knob travel which often clicks off by one while tightening. The S&B has two set screws Leupold/NF style. Its zero stop mechanism is set by the physical bottom of the cap, so it's easy to set.

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/small/A100_1986_img.jpg (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1986_img.jpg) [ link to LARGER image ] (http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/?medium=A100_1986_img.jpg)

External / feature comparison pics here

http://apollo.demigod.org/~zak/DigiCam/USOSB/

In short, both are EXCELLENT scopes. Both track perfectly so far (ie, expected dope on each scope), but my testing has not been extensive or lengthy. I would not feel at a disadvantage with either of them.

The S&B costs about $300-400 more than the USO, or $700-800 more if you get a "group buy" price on the USO.

List of things I still have to test:

* dusk, low-light, no-light, & illuminated targets

* illuminated reticles in the dark on targets

* illuminator "target indicator" from muzzle side


* high round count.. literally only have like 20 through the S&B right now



If I were to change the S&B, I would:

1. Add threads for a windage knob cap, so I can zero it, cap it, and forget about it forever, and use the reticle for wind holdoff.

2. Get more reticle options ASAP! Horus, Gen 2, GAP, etc.

3. Move or change the illumination control so the shooter can see the current setting on the parallax/focus knob.

4. Change the elevation knob to be shorter, and wider to increase circumferential click "distance" and make it easier to read. The 2nd-turn indicator is cool.

5. Make it possible to "zero stop" right AT zero, not several clicks below.



If I were to change the USO, I would:

1. Change the EREK knob to be as easy to set "zero stop" point and "zero" as it is on the S&B.

2. Make it shorter and lighter.

3. Make 34mm a factory tube option.

4. Make the windage and illuminator control knobs, and their caps, lower profile.


I don't hold the brightness and exit pupil difference against the USO, since it's running a 12mm SMALLER objective lens.

Basic optical physics cannot be cheated.

On the other hand, the objective bell O.D. of the USO is almost the same as the objective bell O.D. of the S&B, because the old-style ERGO has some overhead. In other words, their external dimensions are similar.

A low-pro ERGO or plain (TPAL) might be a better comparison in this regard.




Hope this helps...

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JNelson
April 22, 2007, 12:23 PM
Zak,

Now that you have had some time with the S & B scope, do you have anymore thoughts about the comparison?

I'm putting together a long range gun and trying to decide on what optics to put on. I've read your articles, but wonder if the USO & S & B scopes are worth all the $? I know you get what you pay for (most of the time), but I'd like to know what scope is the best value?

Jack

Zak Smith
April 22, 2007, 11:28 PM
Hi,

Like most products that are differentiated by features and quality, the basic "Honda Accord" model will get the job done and give you 80% of the features and quality that is possible. Additional steps up are increasingly expensive-- to get the last 5% might cost another 100%.

Scopes are a fixed one-time cost, while there are many recurring and incremental costs in rifle shooting: ammunition, components, barrels, travel, training, entry fees, etc. Every time you look through the scope, you'll appreciate better glass.

If there were less expensive options that really did offer the same features and quality than S&B and USO do, they would sell extremely well, considering how many people are willing to shell out $2000-3000 for these today. Based on this market observation, I think it's safe to say that they are worth the money to many people.

Whenever we discuss the "best value for the money", assumptions have to be made about what the person's priorities are and what he will utilize.

For myself, I'm going to all S&B scopes on my precision rifles. I have been running a 3-12x50mm PMII on my .260 AW for a year and am very happy with it (and the 5-25 on the 338). The SN3 that was on my 308 is being replaced with another 3-12 S&B.

After shooting a USO or S&B, it's hard to go back to any of the cheaper scopes. I prefer the S&B's for a few reasons, which are relatively minor: finer reticle lines available, scopes smaller and lighter than comparable USO, knobs easier to zero, larger exit pupil.

-z

JNelson
June 3, 2007, 01:05 PM
So do you have any USO scopes for sell Zak?

Zak Smith
June 7, 2007, 12:17 PM
Too late. ;)

CD0311
June 25, 2007, 03:45 AM
Great articles Zak, by far my favorite. I just orderd a USO.. just like the one on the 1st pic. I'm going to put it on my 300mag (soon to be .260)

And thanks for the info on the ACOG TA11.

Sorry I miss spelled you name(Zack) in my email. I didn't catch it untill it was too late...again great writing and great pics

NineHotel
September 19, 2007, 10:30 AM
I own the USO pictured above and have so for oh about 16 months now. Zak sold it to me shortly after writing that article - to buy another S&B. And another, and another ;)

Just to provide some USO info where Zak's eval above left off. USO has made several improvements to the SN-3 line. I have two later built scopes and sold another built in the era of the one above, so have a pretty good basis for comparison. All scopes have seen range use out to 900 yards in a variety of conditions and most have seen match use out to 875 yards.

Improvements - they have adopted a new erector design that allows for more movement of the reticle in the vertical plane. Current USOs with the EREK will have a 3 turn knob versus 2 turn in the scope above, taking advantage of the reticle travel. The EREK zeroing/knob setting procedure has not changed. I do not find it difficult but some do.

Another note regarding the new erector - I had a direct conversation with Wendell at USO re: the new erector and reticle travel in the different diameter body tubes. He very clearly told me that you can use all the travel with a 30mm tube, that you did not gain any more travel with the larger tubes. He said the "hinge" is currently the limiting factor, not the erector, and until they change the hinge design this will hold true. If you inquire on this subject to others at USO, particularly in forums, you will get a much more vague response than I just posted here.

As far as brightness goes, my two more currently built scopes appear brighter than the one above and another 2 turn EREK (indicating vintage of the scope). I believe USO has made a change in their coating spec or lens provider or something. While I don't find the older SN-3 poor, the newer ones are brighter.

Reticles - USO has their reticles made by third parties. This should come as no surprise. Notice the plural use of the word party. This causes an overall variance in the reticles when comparing different designs. Additionally, I am told (again by Wendell) that the "mask" that is used to etch the reticle wears over time. Yet another issue effecting reticles is USO's standards for illumination. They like to have thicker etches for their illuminated reticles.

Combine these points together and here is where I ended up. One, if you want a thin line reticle, you must specify it up front and be prepared to wait to get one. It will have to be hand selected from a batch of reticles. Two, be prepared to select a different reticle style to be able to get a hand selected one. Three, be prepared to be told by USO that you are receiving a "non-lit" reticle in your scope with the reticle illumination installed, meaning they are not guaranteeing your happiness with how the reticle lights up. I have seen lit thin-line pics and they light just fine, so don't shy away from this option - a lit thin line - if that is what you want. jb1000br is a good reference for a thin line lit.

Spec'ing out the scope - EREK is still a big thumbs up. #3 knobs, particularly the windage knob with stop, another big thumbs up. The Ergo Low Profile objective is pretty much standard these days as is the Low Profile eyepiece. Match your reticle graduations and your knob clicks - MOA and MOA or Mil-rad and Mil-rad - and you'll be way ahead of the game. Go for a "thin line" reticle - which is thin by USO standards, but not by other maker's standards. Scale reticles are in, and very nice to use, compared to dots, if you are learning a system from scratch. Tube diameter - keep in mind that you don't gain reticle travel if going bigger than 30mm. Also the internal lenses are the same - they just sleeve up the main tube to meet up with the same lenses as the 30mm. The 3.2-17 looks quite proportional with the 30 or 35mm tubes, the 3.8-22 with the 35mm. Going to a 40 limits your ring selection. Bigger tubes are about looks and strength at the expense of weight and bulk. They do not effect the function, brightness, or travel of a USO scope. Rings? USO rings are very nice and feature a windage adjustment, meaning you can have a true mechanical windage zero be your actual windage zero on the scope. Not necessary for most applications but this can be really helpful if you have a 700 action with the scope base holes drilled off axis or a barrel pointing something other than perfectly straight ahead.

I hope someone finds this helpful. Best, Leo Ahearn aka 9H.

Edited to add: pic of 3.2-17 SN-3 - ERGO Low Profile, EREK, 30mm tube, #3 windage knob with stop

http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j175/trialsguy315/PICT0058.jpg
http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j175/trialsguy315/PICT0062.jpg

Zak Smith
September 19, 2007, 11:39 AM
Good follow-up Leo.

Using a sample size of about a dozen each of the USO and S&B scopes (local shooters):

* The S&B scopes have more consistent build quality, and things that are supposed to be the same are more often the same.

* The S&B scopes have better QC. One-fourth to 1/3rd of the USO scopes had something screwed up from the box-- be it click size, reticle calibration, or loose parts (that should not be loose). Some of these were just nuisances, while some were critical.

* From the sample, more of the USO scopes had to go back for repair at some point due to parts breakage.

This is not meant to bag on USO, because they make a great product with the features a practical LR scope needs. However, the importance of QC cannot be over-emphasized.

NineHotel
September 19, 2007, 11:42 AM
Zak, my experience in that regard is 25%, but within spitting distance of your 33% noted. Add my 4 to the mix, call it 1 in 4 had to go back.

Leo.

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